pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Unity

Reading: Psalm 133

Verse Three: There the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.

Unity is fragile and something we must be aware of and be willing to work to maintain.  In this sense, unity is a mindset.  It is something either we value and are willing to give effort towards or it is not.  Unity and the desire to have unity are fueled by love and faith.  As unity is something that can be broken easily, we need to recognize that our humanity makes unity hard to maintain.  This difficulty grows with each person or group added to the mix.

Within our families, unity is driven most by love.  We want those we love to be happy and cared for and content.  Yet every once in a while we do or say something selfish or in anger and unity is temporarily lost.  As our desire for unity is driven by love, we quickly work to restore it.  We apologize or we correct the wrong and receive forgiveness.

But as the circle grows, unity becomes increasingly harder.  Other people and groups we are not a part of have differing thoughts, interests, and opinions.  At times these seem to be in contrast to our thoughts, interests, and opinions.  If we truly see all as dearly loved by God and all as worthy of our love as well, then we must begin to seek to understand those who are not just like us.  It is only when we stop and listen to the other that we can begin to find some common ground.  This common ground allows us then to speak the truth in love.  We must be careful here – the truth is God’s truth in love, not our truth in love.  From here we must be willing to seek a way forward.  We must be open to envisioning the way forward as God envisions the way forward and we must allow God to lead.  For our part, we must live into God’s plan.

Over all of this is love and forgiveness.  Recognizing our own humanity, we should be ready to offer love and forgiveness in heaps.  Unity is how God designed creation and how He intends the world to be.  “There the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore”.


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Surrender

Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15

Verse 15: He kissed all his brothers and wept over them.

Joseph could have easily lashed out at his brothers from his position of power or he could have sought revenge.  But the bond of family and the influence of God in his life lead him to seek reconciliation instead.  Living in a foreign land without any true family had to be hard.  Even though he had been through his share of trials, Joseph had come to have a very good life.  Yet he was alone and missed his family – especially his father.

Joseph clears the room of all his attendants and court officials for two reasons.  One is so that he can be open and honest with his brothers.  Yet even the removal of everyone else does not keep the time private.  Joseph is so overcome with emotion that the officials hear his weeping and report it to Pharaoh.  The second reason is to surrender his position of power so that his brothers can draw near to him.  It is close and personal – something that would never happen in the official court setting.

Joseph seeks to be reunited and reconciled with his family.  It begins with him reaching out, surrendering his power, making the first move simply as their brother.  To repair a broken relationship someone has to make the first move.  It also requires the other party to accept the offer of reconciliation and to respond accordingly.  Both sides must be willing to let go of the past – whatever caused the separation and brokenness – and to begin to love again.  In the end, “He kissed all his brothers and wept over them”.  Then they talked.

On our faith journey, we go through cycles of reconciliation.  We sin and break our relationship with God.  Sin separates us.  Then in an act of love and surrender of self we repent and ask for forgiveness.  In His great love and mercy, God offers us grace and our sin is forgiven.  We are once again reunited with the God we love until we stumble again and then we repeat the process.  Joseph had to become less to meet his brothers again.  We too must surrender some more of ourselves each time we say we are sorry and repent and commit to a closer walk with Jesus.  Each day, may we become less and He becomes more.


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Healing and Wholeness

Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15

Verse Four: I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.

Joseph is at a good place in his life.  He has gone through some difficult experiences but has had a sense of God’s guidance and presence during his time in Egypt.  The old hurts and scars are a thing of the past.  And then his brothers suddenly appear before him, begging to buy food.  Oh how the tables have turned!  All that distant hurt and anger must have come rushing back for Joseph.  In the text we see that this is right where his brothers go – terrified in his presence because they too remember what all they did to him.

In life we experience hurts and offenses.  We all have been let go by an employer or have been dumped by one we love or have been cast aside for a cooler or better connected friend.  More often than not we absorb the hurt and over time it lessens and we come to a new place of peace and contentment as we allow God to heal and love us.  We see that God has continued to be at work in our lives, bringing us a new job or a new significant other or a new best friend.  And then our old boss comes looking for a job or the ex shows up with regrets over their choice or the old friend comes looking for your help.  Thanks feelings come rushing back and it is hard to be loving and caring and to act as Jesus calls us to act.

Joseph exclaims, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt”. It is not, ‘I am in charge now!’ or ‘Get out!’ or anything else harsh or negative.  It is love and mercy and reconciliation that Joseph offers.  He knows that God has been with him and will continue to be with him.  He chooses to let go of the past and to embrace a future with God leading and guiding.  When we are faced with the choice to love or to seek revenge, may we also find a way guided by God’s love, bringing healing and wholeness to what was broken.


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Compassion

Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21

Verse 14: When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Jesus always seemed to be in demand.  Once He began to teach and heal, there always seemed to be a group or a crowd gathered around Him.  He had interesting and sometimes challenging parables and His interpretation of the Scriptures and what it meant to have faith all seemed to center around love and hope and forgiveness.  There was a hunger for these things and Jesus offered them.  For each, there was draw to Jesus.  This day, many are seeking healing.  The people are seeking Jesus’ touch to heal them physically or spiritually or mentally.  So this day is no different than all the others.  Jesus is tired and seeks to withdraw to a solitary place, but the people follow along on shore.

“When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick”.  Instead of being mad or getting back in the boat and heading off someplace else, a tired Jesus has compassion.  He gets out of the boat and starts healing them.  We do not know how or what He healed them of, but we do know that He healed many because as evening approaches, the disciples come to Jesus with a practical concern.  Feeding the people – one more way to care for them.  But Jesus’ response challenges the disciples: “You feed them”.  Their answer: but, but, but.   Our answer would have been the same.  What can we do, Lord?

Instead of being angry with the disciples or seeking to walk away from them, Jesus has compassion.  He solves their problem too.  With five loaves and two fish, Jesus feeds the multitude.  His compassion never ends.  Even though tired and seeking solitude, Jesus heals many and as the day draws long, He feeds them too, tending to a physical need of the people.

Jesus continues to do all of this today.  In those times of hurt and pain, Jesus heals our brokenness.  He heals our physical or spiritual or emotional hurts.  He also provides for our needs – our daily bread and so much more.  Jesus offers us Hope and love and forgiveness today as He has compassion on us.  Whatever our need or our hurt, Jesus says to us, “Bring them to me”.


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In All Things

Reading: Romans 8: 31-39

Verse 37: In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Paul opens our passage with a great question.  He asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us”?  He opens this section with a question and the answer leads to his first point.  That point is that if God have His only Son then He will certainly give us anything else we need too.  God is our ultimate good Father who will give us all good things because He loves us.

The next question, who will condemn, is asked in a similar way – to set up the answer.  It is a legitimate question because in our lives we do much that deserves condemnation from a God who is perfect in all ways.  But condemnation is not what we receive.  Instead we receive forgiveness and love.  Instead of being condemned by the one who was without sin, we are defended by Jesus.  Jesus intercedes for us before the Father.  He who has walked in our shoes speaks up for us in heaven.

The third question has the best answer.  Paul asks, “Who will separate us from the love of God”?  The answer is quite a list.  In reality the answer is nothing can separate us.  Paul lists some of the common things that can separate us – persecution, famine, danger, nakedness, death, demons, worry about the future.  Tying back into our recent parables, these are the thorns and weeds along our path.  Yet when we remain faithful and keep our hope and trust in God, we find that nothing can separate us from the love of God we find in Jesus Christ.  It is a deep and eternal love.  It is an everlasting and encompassing love.  It is a love for which I am very grateful.

The God who is for us, the God who gives forgiveness instead of condemnation, brings us victory.  “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.  Thank you God for the victory.


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Life in the Spirit

Reading: Romans 8: 1-11

Verse Two: Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Paul opens our passage today with a strong statement: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ”.  This is a central theme of the gospel message.  Jesus took on the sin of the world and triumphed over it as He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven.  Through the sacrifice of His body and blood we are forgiven and made righteous.  We no longer have to live with sin and guilt and shame.  Through Jesus’ loving act on the cross we are freed from all of this.  In grace we are made new and restored to righteousness.  Paul writes of this in verse two: “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”.  We are set free as well!

For most of the passage, Paul focuses on sin versus righteousness.  Paul argues that the sinful man focuses on the desires of the flesh and is self-centered and is hostile to God.  The sinful man leads a life that ends in death.  Paul contrasts this with the man who lives led by the Spirit.  The Spirit led man focuses on the desires of God and is Good-centered and tries to please God.  The Spirit led man lives a life of peace that leads to eternal life.  The key to which life one leads is determined by whether or not Jesus is in one’s life.  Paul argues that if Christ is in us, then we will lead a life that is led by the Spirit.

Paul is, of course, writing here of the big picture.  Either we are trying to live by the Spirit or we are trying to live by the flesh.  The deciding factor is professing Jesus as Lord of our life.  Once we make this decision it does not mean that we will never sin again.  It means that our focus is on living a righteous life that is pleasing to God.  Life in the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit will guide and lead and convict us, making our battle with sin more often victorious.  The good news is that when we do slip and sin, there is no condemnation because Christ had already defeated sin and death.  Instead of condemnation we are given mercy and grace and forgiveness.  Through Him eternal victory is in our grasp.  For this we say thanks be to God!


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Alive

Reading: Romans 6: 1b-11

Verse Six: We that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with.

Paul writes today of a willingness to die to self.  It is a willing choice to accept Jesus as Lord, to figuratively die with Christ, and to make the choice to kill the sins that live in our lives.  It is a lot of talk about death, but to die is necessary so that the new creation in Christ can live in us.  Paul was a man that did not avoid death.  He was a man who died over and over again to sin in his life and who literally faced persecution and threats of death.  Eventually he would be martyred, dying for the Jesus he loved.

Paul begins by reminding us that as we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death so that we can be raised to new life in Christ.  Paul extends the idea of new life here as a follower of Jesus to one day being “united with Him in resurrection”.  For Paul, dying to our old self first brought death to the “body of sin” that we used to occupy.  With this, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but instead “we that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with”.  In Christ we are freed from the power of sin.  In Christ we live free from the entanglements and guilt and shame of sin.

For Paul, when we die with Christ we also share in His mastery over death.  In “dying with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him”.  In rising from the grave, Christ demonstrated that death has no power over Him.  Death is not the end of all ends.  It is simply the end of our mortal bodies.

Paul closes this section by returning to dying to sin.  Paul reminds us that Christ “died to sin once for all”.  In Jesus’ sacrifice He conquered sin for all people for all time.  This is the grace you and I live under.  No matter what sin we fall into, we can repent and seek mercy and find forgiveness.  Once for all.  Sin has no power over the believer.

We find freedom in choosing to follow Jesus Christ, dying to self so that sin and death have no power over us.  In this choice to follow we instead live into the joy of new life, resurrection life, and life in the Spirit.  Thank you Jesus for providing the way to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus”.